Chichen Itza

Mexico: Mayans, Aztecs & Conquistadors

15 days
from
$3,295 USD
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5 / 5 from 3 reviews >
Leisurely
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Trip code: 
AHM
Ways to Travel:
Guided Group, Tailormade Adventures
Activity:
Culture
Min age:
16
Group size:
6–15

Lost civilisations, Spanish colonial heritage, natural beauty and a rich and unique culture.

Few countries can compete with Mexico when it comes to unleashing the inner Indiana Jones in each of us. Jungle clad temples and abandoned ancient civilisations make way to colonial era towns with cobbled streets and Spanish architecture. This fusion of history has led to Mexico’s unique culture from the art of Frida Kahlo to Oaxaca’s succulent cuisine. Uncover the country’s historical and cultural layers as we journey from the highlands of Mexico City to the jungles and beaches of the Yucatan via the lands of Aztecs, Zapotec, Mayas and Conquistadors.

Highlights

  • Mexico's intense culinary and artistic traditions
  • From ancient temples and cities to colonial town
  • Highlands, jungles and coastlines

Key information

  • 14 nights in a mixture of standard and comfortable hotels with en suite facilities
  • All breakfasts and 2 lunches
  • Travel by private minibus and boat
  • Some long drives
  • Day of the Dead Festival special departure

What's included

  • All breakfasts and 2 lunches
  • All accommodation (see below)
  • All transport and listed activities
  • Tour leader throughout
  • Flights from London (if booking incl. flights)

What's not included

  • Travel insurance
  • Single accommodation (available on request)
  • Visas or vaccinations
Call for general departures:
1 844 227 9087
Call for tailormade trips:
1 800 267 3347
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Santo Domingo de Guzman church, Oaxaca

At Exodus we believe in the power of Responsible Travel.

Every time we travel, we are part of a global movement that creates jobs, builds more sustainable societies, encourages cultural understanding and safeguards common natural and cultural heritage. To learn more about what Responsible Travel means to Exodus click here

Itinerary

  • Day 1

    Start Mexico City

    Those on the group flights normally arrive in Mexico City in the evening. Land only passengers can arrive at any time.

    Hotel Royal Reforma or similar

  • Day 2

    Coyoacan Neighbourhood, Frida Kahlo and Xochimilco Canals

    Following a briefing, we head out for a day exploring the bohemian side of Mexico City.

     We start off by making our way to the south of the city and a particular house hidden behind cobalt blue walls known as Casa Azul. This is where the acclaimed artist Frida Kahlo was born; grew up and, eventually, lived with her muralist husband, Diego Rivera until she died in 1954 at the age of 47. Now a museum, the colonial house, set around a luxuriant garden doesn’t only showcase the collections and personal effects of the two great artists but is a window into the life of affluent Mexican bohemians in the first half of the 20th Century.

    Next, we visit the quaint neighbourhood of Coyoacan (meaning place of coyotes) with its pebbled streets, colonial churches, bustling little markets and quiet squares. This area was inhabited before the arrival of the Spanish and it is said that the conquistador, Hernan Cortes, made this the first capital of New Spain.

    Finally, we enjoy a relaxing ride on a pre-Hispanic boat along the peaceful waters of the Xochimilco Canals. These scenic waterways would have been used by the Aztecs and today see us enjoying a relaxing journey past floating gardens and little floating kitchens selling local food.

     We finally return to our hotel in the late afternoon.

    Hotel Royal Reforma or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 3

    Teotihuacan and Mexico City's Old Town

    The ancient city of Teotihuacan reached its zenith around 1,000AD when it was the 6th biggest city in the world with a population of about 125,000. Amongst the avenues and structures are the pyramids of the Sun and the Moon, the 3rd and 4th largest in the World. We explore this impressive archaeological zone with an expert local guide to unearth some of the site’s secrets.

     Returning to Mexico City we visit the historic centre. Based around the Zocalo (main square) are the Palacio Nacional and the Cathedral Metropolitana. The Palacio Nacional not only contains the offices of the President, the Federal Treasury and the National Archives but also murals depicting pre-Hispanic life and a large mural filling the central stairway depicting the entire history of Mexico from the conquest on. 

     Hotel Royal Reforma or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 4

    Mexico Museum of Anthropology and History; on to Puebla

    Before leaving Mexico City behind we visit the Museum of Anthropology and History with its impressive collection of artefacts from Mexico’s many civilisations.

    Starting our journey south we head towards the city of Puebla (about 4.5hrs). En route we visit Cholula, home to the largest pyramid base in Mesoamerica with a 16th-century church built on top of it. On a clear day there are good views of Popocatepetl Volcano.

    In the late afternoon we arrive in Puebla de los Angeles, the City of Angels – so called because of a legend that claims angels came down from heaven to place the cathedral’s bells in the towers when builders were unable to do so. The colonial city is known for its traditions, especially its handicrafts, including blue-and-white pottery, and its cuisine that is some of the best in Mexico.

     Hotel Colonial Puebla or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 5

    Puebla city tour and on to Oaxaca

    We spend this morning discovering the city of Puebla which has been given UNESCO World Heritage Site for its colonial architecture. We visit the Patio de los Azulejos and the ex-Convent of Santa Rosa, both of which provide classic examples of how ‘talavera’ tiles were incorporated into buildings, inside and out. Early settlers who came from Talavera de la Reina in Spain introduced these tiles and associated ceramics. Today the glazed pottery has become synonymous with Puebla.

    After our city tour we continue our journey and drive towards another Mexican World Heritage City, Oaxaca (about 4.5hrs). With a colonial centre of shaded pedestrian streets, bright, clear light, indigenous traditions and a creative atmosphere, Oaxaca has attracted and inspired many artists and artisans alike.

    The city boasts such sights as the beautiful zocalo (main square), the Cathedral and the vast Convento de Santo Domingo, along with museums, fascinating markets and charming inns.

    Hotel Casantica or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 6

    Monte Alban and Oaxaca

    Our next exploration of Mexican history takes us to the Zapotecan site of Monte Alban. Whilst the name dates back to a Spanish landowner in the 16th-century, previous names come from the Mixtec word ‘Sahandevul’ meaning ‘At the foot of the Sky’ or the Zapotecan ‘Danibaan’ meaning ‘Sacred Mountain.

    In 500 BC the Zapotecans moved into the Oaxaca region and began the monumental task of levelling the top of a 1,600m high mountain that intersects and divides three valleys. Here they built the city of Monte Alban with a maze of subterranean passageways, rooms, drainage and water storage systems.

    We later return to Oaxaca and explore the cobbled streets and vibrant squares and churches of the historical town. We also visit the Museum of cultures Santo Domingo.

    Hotel Casantica or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 7

    Learn how to create popular Mexican dishes

    Oaxaca is possibly the most famed region in Mexico for its cuisine and we get more acquainted with it as we head for a cooking class, learning dishes that can easily be recreated at home. The exact menu can change but we generally learn how to make two types of tortilla, three different salsas, guacamole, mole, a starter, a soup, a desert and a drink. We visit a local market where different ingredients are showcased and explained before returning to the restaurant for our class and a succulent lunch.

    The afternoon is free to wander around Oaxaca on your own.

    Hotel Casantica or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch
  • Day 8

    Teotitlan del Valle, Mescal tasting and Mitla; on to Tehuntepec

    A short distance from Oaxaca is the village of Teotitlan del Valle known for its colourful, hand-woven rugs and our first stop today. From here we continue to the Don Agave distillery to taste some mescal. Distilled from agave plants, mescal is different to tequila and is most popular in the Oaxaca region.

    We next head to Mitla, another Zapotecan city which contains tombs of kings and priests and which roughly dates from the 200-900AD.

    After visiting the site we drive on to Tehuantepec where we spend the night (total drive time is about 7hrs plus stops)

    Hotel Calli or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 9

    To San Cristobal

    Drive to San Cristobal (about 6hrs plus stops).

    One of Mexico's most popular cities with visitors, San Cristobal de las Casas is filled with cobbled stoned alleyways of whitewashed buildings with red-tiled roofs that give onto plazas and picturesque arcades.

    Upon arriving in San Cristobal in the afternoon we have a short orientation tour of the historic city before checking into our hotel.

    Hotel Casa Mexicana or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 10

    Free day in San Cristobal

    Day 10

    Today is a free day to explore San Cristobal at your own pace. Wander the colonial streets, take in the lively cafés, or buy handicrafts produced by the local Tzotzil indigenous groups with their different colourful dress. It’s also possible to do an optional boat trip through the Sumidero Canyon and/or visit one of the traditional Mayan communities who live in the villages surrounding the city (see money section for prices).

    Hotel Casa Mexicana or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 11

    To Palenque via Agua Azul

    The road we take towards Palenque is very windy but picturesque. En route we visit the waterfalls of Agua Azul (after about 5hrs driving plus stops). Agua Azul is a group of beautiful waterfalls that create wonderful natural pools and has been a protected area since 1980.

    Following a stop at the falls it’s a further 2.5hrs to the town of Palenque, named after the nearby impressive ruins.

    Hotel La Aldea del Halach Huinic

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 12

    Palenque Ruins, on to Campeche

    Emerging from the jungles of the Chiapas’ low-lying hills is one of Mexico’s most impressive ruins: the Mayan site of Palenque. The temples, sanctuaries and pyramids, with their sculptured walls and ceilings are some of the best-preserved and finest examples of Mayan buildings despite the city-state having peaked over 1,300 years ago in the 7th century.

    We explore this magnificent site before continuing on the road towards the Yucatan Peninsula and the Caribbean town of Campeche (about 5hrs plus stops).

    Yet another UNESCO World Heritage Site, the colonial town’s best feature are its impressive city walls built to protect it from the constant attacks by English and Dutch buccaneers and pirates during the 16th and 17th centuries.

    Hotel Lopez or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 13

    Uxmal, traditional lunch and Merida

    About two hours drive from Campeche is our second Mayan site: Uxmal. Quite open, it is in contrast to the jungle-ruins of Palenque we visited yesterday. This site, which dates to the late classic era (500-800AD) and features the Pyramid of the Magician; the Nunnery Quadrangle with long, elaborately carved facades; and a ball court where a traditional ball game was played, sometimes ending in human sacrifice.

    Having worked up an appetite we have lunch at a local Mayan family restaurant. Here we get to eat Pollo Pibil and Cochinita Pibil – slowly cooked pork and chicken. The meat is roasted for about 5hrs along with achiote past and wrapped in banana leaves. This is a typical Yucatan dish and representative of the local cuisine.

    After lunch it’s about 1.5hrs drive to Merida. A number of the city’s buildings, including the cathedral, were built using Mayan stones found on this site and, along traditional colonial architecture, features 19th century houses built in a French style.

    Arriving mid-afternoon we have a walking tour of Merida, returning later to enjoy the main square which is particularly delightful at night.

    Hotel Caribe or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch
  • Day 14

    Tixkokob craft village, Izamal magic town and on to Chichen Itza

    Our first stop is at the traditional Mayan village of Tixkokob where local families practice the age-old craft of hammock weaving.

    After learning about how hammocks are made we continue to the ‘magic town’ of Izamal. Once a Mayan settlement, the name means ‘Place of the God of Medicine’. The town is covered in buildings painted yellow and white and is known for the 16th century Franciscan monastery built on top of the base of a huge Mayan pyramid (which was probably once larger than the Castillo in Chichen Itza).

    From here we transfer to Chichen Itza, possibly the best known and most impressive of all Mayan sites. We should arrive early enough to enjoy the beautiful hotel and gardens where we spend the night right by the ancient site. (total drive time of about 3.5hrs plus stops)

    Hotel Mayaland Resort or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 15

    Chichen Itza visit; on to Cancun; end Cancun

    Our final day starts with a visit the most famous Mayan temple city: Chichen Itza. Having spent the night right by the site means we can get in nice and early before the hordes of day-trippers coming from the beach resorts.

    Chichen Itza served as the political and economic centre of the Mayan civilisation and thrived from around 600 to 1,200AD. The pyramid of Kukulkan, the Temple of Chac Mool, the Hall of the Thousand Pillars and the Playing Field of the Prisoners can still be seen today and demonstrate the extraordinary commitment to architecture, space and composition. The pyramid itself was the last, and possibly the greatest, of Mayan pyramids.

    This afternoon we drive about 2.5hrs to Cancun airport in time for the group flight. This is where the tour’s land only portion ends. Those who have decided to extend there stay by visiting the beach will get picked up here.

    Meals included: Breakfast
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Essential Info

Visas

Mexico

Holders of British, Australian, New Zealand, US, Canadian and most EU passports do not require visas for Mexico.
However, please note that if flying via the USA, you will have to clear immigration during transit. In this case, you will be required to get an Electronic Travel Authority (USD14) prior to flying if travelling via the USA under the Visa Waiver Scheme (as is the case for most UK citizens). Please see www.exodus.co.uk/USVisa for more information.

Vaccinations

Mexico

There are no mandatory vaccination requirements.

Recommended vaccinations are: Typhoid, Hepatitis A.

The risk of malaria is slight but you may wish to consult your GP or travel health clinic for further advice.

Dengue fever and/or Chikungunya are known risks in places visited on this trip. Both are tropical viral diseases spread by daytime biting mosquitoes. There is currently no vaccine or prophylaxis available for either, and therefore the best form of prevention is to avoid being bitten. We recommend you take the usual precautions to avoid mosquito bites.

Zika fever is a mosquito‐borne viral disease and a known risk in places visited on this trip. There is currently no vaccine or prophylaxis available, we therefore strongly recommend you take the usual precautions to avoid mosquito bites. 

Eating and Drinking

All breakfasts and 2 lunches included. Breakfast generally consist of fruits, cereals, beans and eggs. Meals vary in price from around $15-20 USD for lunch and $15-30 USD dinner. A beer costs on average $3-5 USD.

There is a lot more to Mexican cuisine than fajitas and tacos and we have the opportunity to discover the wealth of dishes on offer. In Oaxaca we attend a cooking class, the exact dishes we learn to cook can vary but generally include tortillas, salsas, mole (chocolate based savoury dishes) and guacamole. We also learn about Mexican drinks, in particular by visiting a mezcal distillery.

Weather

Chichen Itza

Chichen Itza

Is this trip for you?

Covering a lot of ground from Mexico City to Cancun does mean there are some long drives – some of which are on windy mountain roads. Some of the trip, in the lowlands of Chiapas and the Yucatan in particular, is likely to be hot and humid, especially in the summer months – drinking plenty of water and dressing in loose cotton clothing will help. Whilst this is a leisurely trip, walking city tours. as well as visits to various pre-Hispanic sites. does mean a lot of time spent on our feet. Many of the areas visited on the trip are at high altitude and some short walks (normally one to three hours) are planned. A reasonable level of fitness is required for this trip.

Call for general departures:
1 844 227 9087
Call for tailormade trips:
1 800 267 3347
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Accommodation

Hotels

We will stay in a variety of colonial and modern properties, all with en-suite facilities. Some of the accommodation highlights will include: a charming restored XVI century convent in Oaxaca, a Spanish colonial residence in the heart of San Cristobal de las Casas, a property 2km from Palenque surrounded by forest, stay at Mayaland, the first Hotel built in Chichén Itzá, making it the first resort within an ancient site in the world . Some of the hotels have pools and most have wifi/internet. Single supplements are available upon request.

Call for general departures:
1 844 227 9087
Call for tailormade trips:
1 800 267 3347
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Expert Blog Entries

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  • Reviewed April 2018
    R. Perry

    So much to see!

    Our first Exodus trip, and first time in Mexico. Hugely enjoyed the experience, and saw so much more than we could have managed under our own steam. Nice mixture of ancient sites, colonial history and Mexico today.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Turning around at the top of the pyramid in Cholula to see the sun set behind Popacatepetl - magical!

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Arturo was an excellent, knowledgeable and careful guide, who made the whole trip very special.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Keep a daily diary - you see SO much, it is easy to mix up your memories!

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    I'm looking forward to my next Exodus trip!
  • Reviewed March 2018
    Prue Losada

    Mexico: Mayas, Aztecs & Conquistadores

    This is an epic journey through Mexico to see the ancient sites and to get a flavour of the country, its beautiful colours, its friendly people and its delicious food. Although we spent a lot of time on the road between locations (and some were very windy through the Sierra Madre mountains) we always made stops along the way to visit places of interest, have lunch and plenty of stops for the banjos!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Frida Kahlo's house was somewhere I had looked forward to visiting, and it didn't disappoint. I also loved all the ancient sites, but Palenque was my favourite, due to its setting. Our cooking class in Oaxaca was excellent, ending in a 6 course lunch of all the food we had chosen and helped to prepare. The optional boat trip in the Sumidero Canyon is a must - we had gone early and that meant we were virtually on our own for the outward journey and for stopping to look at the wildlife. Some of the hotels we stayed in were exceptional but sadly at those for only one night. Likewise the restaurants our guide took us to were excellent. The final treat of my holiday was a swim at the cenote (sink hole) on the last morning. Was extremely refreshing on a very hot day and I would definitely recommend it.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Arturo was a fantastic tour guide. Nothing was too much trouble for him, and he looked after us so well and thought of absolutely everything and always had with him anything we might need, from extra water, to suncream, to anti-mosquito repellent to travel sickness pills ahead of what he knew would be a very windy route, for which I was most grateful! He was extremely knowledgeable about the history of everywhere we went; he would always dine with us (apart from a well-deserved couple of nights off) and he was very outgoing and had a great sense of humour.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Just be prepared for long journeys and for it being chilly some mornings in the high locations before the sun comes up. Take most or all of your money in Mexican pesos. I had too many dollars and was having to change them, which was sometimes a very lengthy process. Some of the smarter restaurants/hotels did accept credit cards.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    I would suggest to Exodus that they extend the trip to either a 2.5 or 3 week holiday so that you could really enjoy the best hotels/locations and make it a more relaxing holiday. Then setting off VERY early in the morning when heading for the next location would be ideal so that you got to the next destination in daylight and before sunset.
  • Reviewed March 2018
    Phyllis Ryan

    Mexico: Myans, Aztecs & Conquistadors

    An excellent experience. We saw so many Mayan sites, and learned a lot about Mexico's history in general.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The experience of seeing some of the ancient sites, even from as far back as 200-500 years BC. I thoroughly enjoyed roaming around, and climbing up these pyramids.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Arturo was a very good leader. He knew so much about his local history, and passed on his knowledge with humour and a great sense of pride.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Be prepared for mosquitoes. Although it wasn't Malaria season, I still got bitten. Take a good repellent with you.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    No

Dates & Prices

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